By Adama Ouattara (YES 2018-2019, Mali, hosted by World Link in Dinuba, CA)
One thing that I can say is that I've made the best decision of my life by participating in the YES program. First, I made the decision to grow up, push my comfort zone, learn about other cultures, traditions and lifestyles and finally, I made the decision to try new things.
I've experienced so many things while in the U.S and today, I'd like to share my specific experiences of celebrating the holidays with my wonderful host family. We were four in my host family: my mum, dad, and older sister plus the dog and cats. I also had a host brother but he lived with his wife and his son in another state. I had a lot of tias, tios, primas and primos which means aunts, uncles, and cousins in Spanish. I was so lucky to have such a huge family that always treated me like if I’ve always been a part of them. Because we were a big family, holidays were always so fun; I had moments of endless fun and happiness.
I used to see Halloween celebrations on TV and it was so pleasant to experience it in real life. People were dressing up all day as princesses, monsters, witches, bees, cats, ghosts, vampires, superheroes… and for me, well I was a little angel. On Halloween, I sat outside our house with a container full of Gushers with my host mum and I was giving them out to the trick-or-treaters. I remember it like it was yesterday.
The Thanksgiving meal was actually at our house and it was really pleasant. My host mum woke up early to make food and my host sister and I helped her out. Then for lunch we had turkey, a sweet potato salad, cheesecake, brownies, and cupcakes. We had a lot of food, then we played games all together. I can still remember all the laughters of happiness.
Christmas was lovely with everybody in the family all together. We all went to my host grandparents' house for dinner. We watched TV, played games and opened up our gifts. Everybody was in such a good mood and it created good vibes.
Easter was so much fun with all the family all together again, this time, all my host cousins were here, young and old ones. We all went to my aunt's house since she had a huge backyard with horses. Since I was older, I helped some of my cousins hide Easter eggs in the backyard so the younger ones could look for them. In the end, everybody got candies and gums.
Easter was also a few days after my birthday and my host family got a delicious cake for me and we celebrated all together. I even broke a Piñata for the first time and I will forever remember that funny moment when one of my aunt's spun me 16 times because I turned 16 years old. Everybody was looking at me, with my eyes covered hitting the Piñata.
Finally, Spring Break arrived. I had two weeks off from school and my host parents took me to Universal Studios in Los Angeles. Since that trip, it’s become my favorite place to be in LA, added to Disneyland. In Universal Studios, we went on amazing rides and my favorite one was the Harry Potter one. I had so much fun, there are no words to describe how happy I was.
Holidays are something that I will never forget and I'm so grateful to my host family because they are the reason why every single second counted.